By admin | August 31, 2012

A man, Guest 1/7 (Jeffrey Scott Basham), is alone in a white room furnished with a mattress on the floor along one wall and a table with two chairs on the other. The room is under camera surveillance, and periodically men in lab coats and masks come in to test the man. Whenever he does the tasks too slowly, or thinks too much, he is punished. Other times he is shown different images and colors on the wall.

It’s never quite clear why he is there, or why he is being tested, though the masked men behave as if Guest 1/7 is there by his own request for a treatment of some kind to be cured of something. As his punishment sometimes comes as a result of him remembering something (and we get images and scenes without dialogue from time to time to show us these memories or dreams), it seems that his internment is meant to erase certain things from his memory, or have him reveal something he doesn’t know he remembers. But why?

Haaris Baig’s Residual Imprint is as confusing as they come for a 32 minute short film, but it is fun to look at and at least I stayed engaged trying to figure out what was going on. Of course, I don’t think I ever did figure out what was going on, or what it all means, so I didn’t take much away from the film. Except confusion.

The overall visual aesthetic is very THX 1138, which I enjoyed, and most of the effects utilized worked perfectly (display overlays, for example). The film also looks really good in general, and cinematography is not an area I found lacking. On a technical basis, the film is sound and efficient in all ways.

It’s just the damn narrative. Which, you know, this is obviously an experimental film to a certain extent, and at least this attempts to tell some sort of story, whether I understood it or not (I’ve seen experimental films that were far more incoherent, and far longer, on purpose). So I’m not really taking too much away from the film critically because I didn’t follow it all the time. It’s like this for its own reasons, I get that, and the “erasing memories” thread, particularly when those memories contained a woman, made me wonder if this was a bit of a take on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind too. Or may a little Total Recall.

On a personal enjoyment level, though… it just wasn’t for me. Again, I don’t think it really does anything wrong by being what it is, but it’s not fun, for me at least, to just be confused most of the time and then come out of it with no payoff somewhere. When it was over, it was just a feeling of “well, that happened…” with no other connection. I’m sure others will have different ideas and experiences with the film, but mine was hollow.

In the end, Residual Imprint was a confounding narrative experience, but it was well-done in every other aspect. I know someone out there will find a level of appreciation for it that I didn’t, so kudos to you if you connect in that way. For me, while I stayed engaged to try and figure out what was going on, there was little connection to the film beyond the surface, which was disappointing.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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  1. Ahmad says:

    Dear Mark,

    I actually saw this film at a festival in Los Angeles and found it very compelling. I took away that Guest 1/7 was Muslim and that it took place in the future when Islam could very well be illegal. There were a lot of flashbacks that clearly spelled it out, but I could see how one could overlook it. The flashback with the sleeper cell crack down with the news reporter and when guest 1/7 is working on his model and then picks up the book that has a fake book jacket on it and it’s the Qu’ran and then the alarm flashes contraband etc.

    I am Middle-Eastern and I found the film to be a sincere and well thought out commentary on Islamophobia in the USA. It was actually quite obvious to me how many references to Islam there were in the film. Considering how relevant this issue is in our culture, I am pretty shocked that you found the film confusing. To each his own but I am pretty sure this was what the film was about.

    • Mark Bell says:

      Spoilers for those who haven’t seen this yet.


      That’s very interesting. While I did catch the news report, I didn’t connect that with the other flashbacks of his personal life (nor the techniques they were using on him, such as the tests and color-and-shapes video). Likewise, I noticed the book he was reading, and the updated firmware that suddenly flagged him for contraband after he had moved to the model… but I didn’t know it was specifically the Qu’ran he was reading. So while I think your interpretation is very possible, it wasn’t as readily apparent to me as it was to you; it seemed to me like they were trying to cure him of something, and it seemed they were more pleased with his progress the more indistinct his memories became. Having your perspective, perhaps they were trying to cure him of being Muslim, as it was illegal as you suggest? I can’t say that I’m clearer on the premise now than I was, now I’ve got even more to think about, but I definitely find your interpretation compelling and hope others see the film and offer their takes too.

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